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The 12 Days of Books to Buy for Your Science Readers: On the Second Day of Book Lists…

The previous list covered several dinosaur books that were mostly for on the lighter side, or with flashy graphics. Today I want to cover some books that are a bit meatier on the text and less on the graphics (not that there’s anything wrong with graphic heavy books, they just serve a different purpose).

The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs by David Hone. 2016. Bloomsbury Sigma. ISBN-13: 978-1472911254

hone2016This book is the oldest on my lists, but it is still worth picking up if you haven’t already. Dr. Hone is a respected paleontologist working on the behavior and ecology of dinosaurs and pterosaurs. He is also a talented writer, which you can read on his blog, Archosaur Musings, and his articles in The Guardian. This book may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but it is still the best book out there focusing on tyrannosaurs. This book is not for those just getting into dinosaurs. It is not for your general reader who thinks T. rex is cool. This book is for dino enthusiasts who have read about dinosaurs and are looking to add some serious scientific meat to those bones, but are not quite ready to hit the primary literature themselves, preferring an expert to distill and collate the information into a cohesive package.

Why Dinosaurs Matter by Ken Lacovara. 2017. Simon & Schuster/TED Books. ISBN-13: 978-1501120107

lacovara2018Dr. Ken Lacovara is justifiably famous for his research on the Patagonian South American giants of the dinosaur world, including one of the largest ever found, Dreadnoughtus, which while not the longest, ranks as one the the heaviest terrestrial animals that ever lived. He has been studying dinosaurs a long time. Lacovara has written a nice little book explaining why studying dinosaurs is more than just academic interest, expanding on a TED talk he gave in 2017. The introductory chapter in the defense of dinosaurs is worth the price of the book all by itself. But don’t stop there. He does a great job discussing the amazing animals dinosaurs are and why it is important to our understanding of the natural world and what we ourselves might be capable of. These animals pushed the boundaries of what is biologically possible. Understanding how and what the true constraints are matters as we ourselves push those boundaries in other ways.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte. 2018.


Dr. Brusatte has made a name for himself studying dinosaurs holistically as a group more so than particular species or type. He is particularly fond of the more grandiose ideas of origins and extinctions, beginnings and endings. As such, it is only natural that his latest book covers just that, how dinosaurs began as minor players in the Triassic ecosystem through their rise to dominance in the Jurassic and their inevitable crash at the end of the Cretaceous. Even with their crash and loss of most of the large animal niches, they still are the most diverse vertebrates on the planet other than fish, but there is no denying their heyday is over. Brusatte serves as a good tour guide of the history of dinosaurs in their prime, when they ruled the land with a bloody tooth and claw. Of course, this book is about more than dinosaurs. It is about him as well. The book could be a journal of the places he has gone and the people he has seen. So if you are wanting to learn about Brusatte and his study of dinosaurs, this is the book. If you want to just cut to the chase and learn about dinosaurs, maybe try a different book. It all depends on how much you want to read about dinosaurs and how much you want to read about those who study them.

The Ascent of Birds: How Modern Science is Revealing Their Story by John Reilly. 2018. Pelagic Press. ISBN 978-1-78427-169-5


I said earlier the dinosaur heyday is over. Ornithologists like Dr. John Reilly would probably disagree. While Brusatte dealt with nonavian dinosaurs, Reilly provides a great walk through of living dinosaurs and the stories that make them fascinating objects of study. Starting with the Tinamou and Vegavis, he works his way through the birds to finish with White-eyes and Tanagers. Along the way, he uses their stories to discuss numerous concepts of evolution and ecology. If you are interested in how evolution works and you have a particular love of birds, this is a great book.  Essentially, this is a book discussing evolution, using birds for all the examples. Considering their staggering diversity and accessibility, the opportunity to see them, I can’t think of a better group to use for this purpose.

Dinosaurs―The Grand Tour, Second Edition: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops by Kieron Pim. 2019. Second Edition. The Experiment. ISBN-13: 978-1615195190

pim2019I debated whether or not I should include this book. I hate books that claim to tell the reader what is worth knowing and what isn’t. It is an exceptionally arrogant title. Pim is not a paleontologist, so he does not have the cachet the other writers on this list have, so the book really does not deserve the title. The first edition was put out in 2014. If you have that one, I would not recommend getting this one. This one is better, but I am not sure it is enough better to justify buying it again. The cover artwork, while wonderfully done, is not really indicative of the artwork in the book, which are more line drawings than what is seen on the cover. The artwork also has some inaccuracies that bug me, such as enormous overbites that hide the lower teeth and put the upper teeth covering the entire lower jaw, which are all too popular among artists drawing dinosaurs. Nevertheless, the artwork in this edition is a step above that of the first, with more colorful and interesting art for this edition. The book is also more of an encyclopedic organization, a dictionary of dinosaurs, rather than a cohesive and in depth examination. All of which puts this book in a definitely different category than the others. However, if you are looking for a book to flip through and learn about some interesting new dinosaurs, you may find this book worth your time, or at least, an interesting gift for a young (although not too young as at almost 10″ tall and over 2 pounds, or 1 kg, it is not a small book) person into dinosaurs.

That’s it for today. Come back Monday for a set of books on other prehistoric animals.

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